Let’s get one thing straight – I don’t do horror films.
They don’t turn my key and I’m a pussy. So the idea of watching an adaptation of a famous ghost story was not the most appealing idea. Especially as I had sleepless nights when I was seven years old after watching the TV spots for the 1989 ITV film. It scared the bejesus out of me and was something I couldn’t easily forget.
The Woman in Black is the novel by Susan Hill, which tells the story of young lawyer Arthur Kipps who is sent to settle the estate of a recently deceased woman only to face a vengeful spirit haunting the house and the local village.
Director James Watkins has had experience in horror and spine-chilling cinema, with Eden Lake, as well as screenwriting credits of The Descent 2 and 2002’s My Little Eye. With his second feature, he captures the isolation very well. The sequences in Eel Marsh House are beyond creepy and intriguing at the same time. It’s like you want to see what’s in there, even though it will shake you to the core. The film, unlike US films, doesn’t glamourise the horror and it should be credited with that.
The loneliness of the film’s haunting settings allow the young Kipps, played by Daniel Radcliffe, to do nothing but be startled and not say very much, which must be a relaxing turn after his tenure as the Boy Wizard. Even though a little young to have a son (and somewhat dependent on facial hair to make him look older), Radcliffe plays the protagonist with a subtle maturity – his priorities are laid bare and he doesn’t rationalise or hide his fear, unlike the skeptical Sam Daily, played by the frank Ciaran Hinds.
After the acclaim from X-Men: First Class, screenwriter Jane Goldman did good with her script. Keeping in line with the novel’s gothic roots, the plot is slightly changed to emphasise the paranormal aspect (Kipp’s wife’s death, possession of Mrs Daily), making the film even scarier. The dialogue from supporting characters seem somewhat lacking in order to bring to light the visual attention the film demands.
Due to the focus on Kipps and the eponymous Woman in Black, the film feels like it should do on screen – haunting and chilling. Beware of locked doors and rocking chairs. You have been warned.